Sunday, November 19, 2017

Scam Spotting: Is this kitten for sale page on Facebook legit or not?

Someone brought this to the attention of /r/scams... is this legit?

FB page claims to have Sphynx kittens for sale at $600 
The initial page is already problematic. Google photo search comes up with a for sale ad from south Australia town of Glenunga.

Scrolling through the cute photos shows they've been advertising these cats since January 20th, 2017.

A volunteer contacted them via Facebook Messenger, and they claimed to be in Dallas, TX.

Their first timeline photo is this cat:

While I cannot find the EXACT photo, it was pretty obvious it was a screencap from a video, as I was able to find this photo of the same cat, the same potted plant, the same plastic sheet on the same table, just different pose, but it's from a classified ad in Granada, Spain.  There's a video below (no longer available) so presumably, that's where the above "photo" came from.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

MLM Basics: The eBay Test

"Jason McRiffle" brought up an interesting test in a BehindMLM comment for the "legitimacy" of an MLM, and it's more useful than it first seems. He dubbed it "the eBay test".

If an MLMer wants you to join "for the product", the way to check whether it's viable or not... is to take the product name and size, and go search on eBay for the same item.

If you can buy it cheaper on eBay including shipping than what you are supposed to sell it for, then it's clearly NOT profitable to join at all as you can't retail it at any profit.

Let's randomly pick one product from each of the top 3 MLM companies by revenue: Amway, Avon, and Herbalife.

Amway Nutrilite Double X Refill "retail price" is $88 on Amway's website

Same refill is easily found on eBay for $50-$60, and if you want to bid, even less

That's not a surprise, is it?

Sunday, November 12, 2017

How Paris Hilton and celebrities made SEC, FTC, and FDA see red: possibly illegal endorsements and reviews are exploding; how to spot them and avoid them

What do actor Jamie Foxx, ex-Boxer Floyd Mayweather, rapper DJ Khaled, soccer player Luis Suarez, and hotel heiress Paris Hilton have in common?

They all endorsed an initial coin offering (ICO), either publicly or online. Jamie Foxx tweeted about anticipating Cobinhood, Floyd Mayweather and DJ Khaled endorsed Centra, Luis Suarez endorsed Stox. Paris Hilton tweeted that she supported ICO of Lydian. only to delete the tweet 3 weeks later.

New York Times wrote an expose on how boxer Floyd Mayweather and rapper DJ Khaled endorsed an ICO called Centra, despite many questions about the head of the company and the business model. And that is when Security Exchange Commission (SEC), the regulatory body of investments in the US, started to see red.

SEC had already issued an investor bulletin in July specifically on ICOs, warning that some ICOs may be considered securities in the US, and promotion of such may violate security laws because they are not registered with the SEC.

SEC in September 2017 closed two fraudulent ICOs and alleged Maksim Zaslavskiy of fraudulently promoting two ICOs, REcoin and DRCoin, which were advertised as being backed by real estate and diamonds. SEC alleged that Zaslavskiy raised only 1/10th of the money he actually did, and never hired any experts nor purchased any diamonds or real estate as it claimed it did or will do. SEC obtained a court order to freeze all assets of companies related to these two ICOs.

SEC on November 1st issued a directive to all people, but specifically, celebrities who promote/endorse ICOs.
Any celebrity or other individual who promotes a virtual token or coin that is a security must disclose the nature, scope, and amount of compensation received in exchange for the promotion.  A failure to disclose this information is a violation of the anti-touting provisions of the federal securities laws.  Persons making these endorsements may also be liable for potential violations of the anti-fraud provisions of the federal securities laws, for participating in an unregistered offer and sale of securities, and for acting as unregistered brokers.  
Paris Hilton seems to be the only celebrity who had walked back on his or her ICO endorsements as of 11/11/2017.

But SEC wasn't the only US Federal agency out looking for misleading and possibly illegal endorsements. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and Federal Drug Administration (FDA) are also clamping down on such illegal behavior that may be misleading consumers.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

This Is How Internet Pet Scam Break Your Heart and How You Can Avoid it

Pet scams are all over the place, and pet scammers have moved onto the Internet as well. Current generation of pet scammers create fake "adoption" websites, then hand you off to associates with fake pet shipping services with an excuse for additional fees.

A woman in Milwaukee was duped by a fake kitten adoption website. The man claimed to be in Virginia and will ship her a kitten for $170... Except he demanded payment via a reloadable gift card, not regular methods. Then later, when a separate scammer called her, claimed they need to "recrate" the kitten at the airport for additional $840 that's "refundable" she knew she'd been had. They even used the name of a real pet transport service.

A Delaware woman was duped into sending money via Western Union to a scammer for deposit on a toy poodle, and even told the woman to go to Baltimore, MD to pick it up, except the address was bogus... The man living at that address had no pets, much less a toy poodle.

Delta Airlines discovered that someone had created a fake pet transport service using Delta's name called, complete with Delta's logo and pictures of its planes, used by pet scammers to trick people out of even more money.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Difference Between Skeptical People and Toxic Negative People

When one searches on the internet (through Google, Bing, or any other search engine), one often comes across MLM minded articles, and so many of them are touting "no negativity". In fact, heaps of articles are online about how to deal with negativity. Some may even quote 'studies' that claimed successful people avoid negative people. Some of the articles are actually relatively accurate, but many of them are just outrageously wrong.

One website used this definition:
Negative people are friends, family, strangers, associates, or prospects that talk badly, or in a non-positive way about your dreams, goals and how you plan on accomplishing them.
Why would people be positive about your dreams, goals, or potential accomplishments? Your friends and family will probably support you just because they know you. But why should ANYONE ELSE care? It would be up to you to convince them.

The same author went on to describe techniques on how to overcome the resistance of the prospect... Though prospect here means a potential recruit into the organization, not a prospect for a sale. But that's not the problem.

Another author claimed that negativity comes from lazy people who can't profit easily from MLM and create a rant blog about it, then went on to use "pyramid // pyramid scheme" obfuscation to deflect the criticism. It was a classic diversionary tactic.

Both suffer from a fundamental problem of lumping in all criticism, including skepticism, as "negativity".

And if you can't tell legitimate questions from insults, you can never improve your situation.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Scam Hilarity: Suspect ponzi claims to be mining bitcoin w/ perpetual motion engine

Woo, short for woo-woo, is a term used to describe something that is completely implausible, yet explained with pseudo-scientific and potentially-plausible jargon that can fool innocent sheeple. You can encounter woo in all sorts of places, and most of the time they do no harm. However, when they show up in medicine and finance, they can do quite a bit of harm indeed. And today, we'll discuss the a new wrinkle... physical woo on top of financial woo.

But let me start from the beginning.

HYIP, or "high yield investment program" is a form of ponzi scheme that promised impossibly high yields. Claimed returns like 1% per day is not uncommon.

Some of them are pretty transparent in being a scheme, while others may adopt weasel language like "crowdfunding" or "charity". Yet others turn to woo explanations for their ability to pay such high yields that makes absolutely no sense when examined in detail. Frankly, it failed to pass the smell test... If they have techniques that can reliably generate such income, just put down a mortgage or borrow X dollars from credit card or bank, and they'll make it back in no time. Right? Yet there have been, for decades, schemes that attempt to explain their ability to generate such returns, with bogus excuses such as "bridge loans" [DOJ], "P2P lending" [CNBC], "forex" [DOJ], "arbitrage" [wikipedia], "penny auctions" [CBSnews], "prime bank" [SEC] and so on.

The latest buzzword is cryptocurrency, and it's no wonder ponzi schemes have latched onto it as the latest craze, by incorporating something people who have heard of, but do not understand, as their woo. Some launch their own cryptocurrency (that nobody would ever use), yet others latch onto the idea of cryptomining, the idea that you can "mine" bitcoin and other currencies.

While cryptomining is real, it is hard to make money in such because the hardware to mine and the electricity to run them, not to mention cooling, are expensive as well. It may be possible to run such in China and Eastern Europe, where electricity is cheap (by government mandate) and hardware and labor are cheap, esp. if one exploit scale by running massive crypto-mine.

So the latest crypto-woo is launched by a company called USI-Tech, which used to be Forex HYIP (see above), but they've since switched to Cryptomining as their new woo. Recently in London, they've shown their latest "innovation"... they can create "virtually FREE energy" to run their cryptomining machines.
USI-Tech claims they can create "virtually free energy",
but they only want to run cryptomining rigs with it

Perpetual motion machine doesn't exist, as it violates law of thermodynamics. Yet there are plenty of kooks who claim they made one, or claim the knowledge was suppressed by the evil government or energy consortiums or something. Though you had to admit, using one to power cryptomining is rather cute.

But what does this thing look like?

Monday, October 30, 2017

Scam Psychology: Theory on Stupidity, Scam, ponzi, and pyramid schemes

Ever heard of Professor Cipolla's theory on stupidity? Neither have I until recently, but it explains quite clearly how the world works, esp. scams.

According to professor Cipolla, you can measure a person by 2 axis: benefit derived from their own actions... and benefit to others because of their own actions

It roughly goes like this:

Cipolla's theory on stupidity, summarized